Thursday, March 29, 2007

Guide to the Laws of Passover

My yearly guide to the Essential Laws of Passover is now available online in PDF format. You can download a copy by clicking here.

If you are interested in receiving a version of the guide that includes extensive Hebrew footnotes and sources, please email me and I will gladly forward you a copy.


Anonymous said...

Does one sit shiva or do the typical mourning/burial procedures for a stillborn baby?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...


The loss of a child is an unspeakable tragedy. From a technical standpoint, the Jewish laws of mourning only apply to a child who survived a minimum of thirty days; however, this is not because of any devaluation, G-D forbid, of the loss.

Jewish law is probably set up this way because of the high rates of infant mortality in the past. Miscarriages and stillbirths were very common until recent times, so children were not presumed to be viable until they had lived at least one month. Nowadays, we have totally different expectations regarding pregnancy outcomes, so we may experience the loss of a newborn differently.

For more details about the Jewish perspective on stillbirth and ways to observe mourning for a stillborn child within the framework of Jewish tradition, you may be interested in reading Confronting the Loss of a Baby: A Jewish Perspective by Rabbi Yamin Levy. He discusses his personal struggle with just such a tragedy.

badrabbi said...

Thanks for the service rabbi - this is a very interesting post, and I enjoy reading it.

To continue the thread of your last comment, as I understand it, you are saying that since infant mortality rates were very high, then Judaism viewed infants less than one month old as being non-viable.

Of course, there are several problems with this view:
1. The line of reason extends to saying that if a child has a disease with a high mortality rate, then this child is not considered as 'human' as a healthy child. Why would this be so?

2. If a child is less than 30 days old, then he, being less than fully viable, therefore has fewer rights than an older child. Of course, this is completely at odds with our modern notion of reality.

3. Obviously times have changed and infants are routinely living beyond the 30 days. Thus, the tradition of mourning differently aught to stop. Why don't we stop it then?